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UK moving to boost Caribbean trade, help businesses recover from COVID fallout

Published:Thursday | June 4, 2020 | 12:22 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
United Kingdom High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad.
United Kingdom High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad.

The United Kingdom (UK) has launched a plan of action to support trade in several Caribbean states to help them maximise the benefits of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Conceived by the UK’s Department for International Development and delivered by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the UK Trade Partnerships Programme (UKTP) aims to create a more transparent business environment across all CARIFORUM states “by making comprehensive and up-to-date trade and market information available, and supporting SMEs to access it, and by establishing mechanisms to monitor trade obstacles”.

The programme also aims to see increased exports to the UK.

CARIFORUM – or Caribbean Forum – comprises the 15 CARICOM states plus the Dominican Republic and serves as a base for economic dialogue with the European Union.

The UK has been working to replicate the effects of the existing EU agreements with the CARIFORUM states to ensure continuity following the transition period and to promote increased trade and investment between the UK and CARIFORUM states in the future.

Further, 13 CARIFORUM States have signed the CARIFORUM-UK EPA, providing vital assurance to businesses, consumers, and investors on the continuity of trade arrangements.

The programme will also work with businesses, trade-support institutions, and other key stakeholders in Jamaica, St Lucia, and the Dominican Republic to boost exports in the creative and specialty-foods sectors.

A virtual meeting hosted last week by the ITC brought together trade officials, development agencies, public and private trade support institutions, and exporters from across 14 countries to discuss the programme’s objectives, interventions, and intended impact.

In her opening address delivered via videoconference, UK Minister for the Caribbean Baroness Sugg said that the UK Trade Partnerships Programme is globally more important now than ever before.

British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad has stated that the project is not only timely in the current regional and global context of COVID-19, but is especially vital for Jamaica.

“Up to now, we have focused on the macro-economic and security elements of what businesses need in our assistance to Jamaica,” said Ahmad. “This is a significant addition to our aid programme in Jamaica to help local businesses tap into the UK market.”

As part of the UK’s wider response to COVID-19 in the Caribbean region, the UK is reallocating resources from its £400 million development programme to help tackle the crisis and support countries that are most at risk.

“Jamaica can and should boost their exports and with the undeniable power and impact of Brand Jamaica. I want to encourage the creative industries here – the expressive fashion, the unique music, the hair and skin care. These are all goldmines waiting to be tapped in the wider markets,” stated Ahmad.